The new IPCC report.

The new report from the International Panel on Climate Change substantially confirms previous findings. Full details are available here. You can read the summary here.There is no disagreement among the authors about the confidence of the predictions.

Only one dissenting author expressed disappointment at the lack of emphasis on mitigation and adaptation. There is no doubt that action at government level to reduce emissions needs to be vigorously encouraged, but we will have to learn to cope with significant climate change impacts already built into the system.. But that is at a global and international level. Locally we need to think what  can be done to alleviate the effects of flooding, prolonged drought and potential changes in weather patterns.

For the first time, the IPCC have clearly acknowledged that in addition to vigorous measures to reduce the effect of emissions on the climate, there is already so much change built nto the climate system that we are going to have to learn to adapt to inevitable changes at some level. The SPS Council will be considering the report when the promised third part of its review is published. This part should cover ,inter alia, the action that the IPCC believes is necessary to adapt to climate change. Such action is likely to have implications for the Solent and could eventually become the subject of legislation

In the Solent we are already seeing changes that maybe attributable to changes in weather patterns. It is not good enough to simply allow changing weather to wipe out important features such as the saltmarsh areas of the West Solent and Portsmouth Harbour. Already we are seeing rapid declines in some Solent bird populations. compensation projects such as Medmerry are welcome, but not enough on their own.

Protection of the environment needs to have a human context.

Having conveniently ignored sound science for the past sixty years, we are sadly now only able to address ‘damage limitation’  (adaptation and mitigation) rather than ‘damage avoidance’ (prevention).  However while there are many other coastal areas of the world far more fragile than the Solent, that does not mean we should continue to ignore the topic –  it won’t go away and will become increasingly critical.


IoW Coastal Access revisited

We have received an Access newsletter from DEFRA, in which DEFRA comments

This newsletter specifically refers to a further consultation on an order for the Isle of Wight under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.  It is to give a second opportunity for people to state (or re-state) their views on whether or not the Government should make an order.   The consultation particularly invites views on the degree of priority that should be accorded to the making of an order, and the implementation of any coastal access proposals for the Isle of Wight as against the rest of the coastal access programme, given limited funds for the overall programme.”

SPS Council will be considering the issue at the next meeting in February.

City Deal takes a £400 million step forward

The Daily Echo reports that a £400 million deal to redevelop Portsmouth and Southampton is due to be finalised any day now.

Inevitably, investment on this scale will transform city skylines. It seems likely that the long awaited Royal Pier redevelopment would be one of the priority projects. If that improves traffic flow in that part of Southampton, and allows greater public access to the waterfront, then it is to be welcomed.But SPS  will try to make sure that such developments do not detract from the amenity value of the Solent.

Marine Planning Strategic Scoping Report Published

A report on key marine activities has been published today by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO).

The Strategic Scoping Report (SSR) identifies natural resources and activities – both recreational and industrial – in England’s marine area, and will inform marine plans that are being developed to shape the future of our seas. The SSR is a key document in the development of marine plans, helping the MMO to establish the distribution of activities, ecosystems and resources in each marine plan area before plans are formed.

The seas around England are vitally important to our nation. The UK marine economy is currently worth more than £47 billion annually, and has the potential to increase significantly. Our seas also matter to people and wildlife. Marine plans will inform and guide marine users and regulators, managing the sustainable development of marine industries taking account of local communities and the need to protect leisure uses and the environment.

The report gives a national picture of the key activities and resources associated with each of England’s marine plan areas – there are 11 in total with the East and South marine plans already underway. It pulls together existing information from a range of sources to provide planners with a national picture before making planning decisions at a plan area level.

Today’s report is an update to the first SSR published in June 2011. This version contains updated and new maps, including new information on water and air quality.

There is also additional evidence after gaps were identified previously, which includes:

· distribution, trends and value of inshore and offshore fisheries in England

· spatial data on marine recreation activities

· socio-economic benefits of marine planning for English coastal communities

· climate change data

· nuclear energy information

· information on biomass potential

Understanding ABP

Posted on 09 Mar 2013

Inevitably, the Port of Southampton has a massive influence on the way the Solent works. So SPS were delighted to take the opportunity of a conversation with Doug Morrison, the Port Director, Ray Blair ,the  deputy Harbourmaster, and Sue Simmonite, the Environment manager.  We ranged over several topics, and what follows is a short summary of the main ones.

Local Enterprise Partnership

The LEP is a government sponsored arrangement that was created to replace the Regional Development Associations. In the Hampshire area, the board is well balanced between local authorities and industrial partners. Doug Morrison is the Chairman for the first three year period.  So far, the LEP has been able to channel significant grant support to Small and Medium sized companies (SMEs) to enable them to expand, but Douglas indicated that quality of many applications for start-up funding  had been disappointing.  Overall, however, he felt that excellent progress had been made, with more to come.  It was clear that the nature of the developments supported by the LEP would be unlikely to affect the Solent.

The City Deal

Both the LEP and ABP  have worked closely with Southampton and Portsmouth City Councils to make a successful application for regeneration funding for the area that could amount to £1.5billion. Only by combining could the two cities compete with the major conurbations in the north, so, as Douglas put it, “Rivalry is best left on the football field”. The City Deal is being fast tracked with a view to completion in July.  Almost certainly, development on such a scale will impact on the Solent, if only on the skyline, but details have yet to emerge.  Closely related to this project is yet another attempt to redevelop the area around the old Royal Pier site in Southampton. Almost certainly, the road network will be improved, but it remains to be seen whether a fully viable redevelopment scheme will emerge. All this is good for jobs, but there has to be some concern about the extra pressures on the Solent.

Bigger Ships

After a very frustrating period of more than 5 years, ABP has been granted a consent to widen and deepen much of the approach channel to the port.  Work above Dock Head has already started, with dredging to widen the channel past the New Docks almost complete. This will enable the new very large container ships to safely pass the newer and larger cruise ships moored at the Mayflower cruise terminal. This work has involved relaying some of the Marchwood YC moorings. There is a long history of cooperation between the club and the Port, so it is no surprise that the operation has gone smoothly. However, ABP were surprised by the problems caused by the piling for a new quay at 201/2 berth (the cross-berth at the head of the Western Docks).  An unexpected quirk of the underground strata has resulted in a ground ‘echo’ being very noticeable in houses in the Marchwood and Millbrook areas. ABP and its contractors have made strenuous efforts to mask the vibration, and to keep local residents informed of when piling operations will take place. Fortunately the works will shortly be coming to an end. The main dredge of several key areas from Dock Head all the way to the Nab tower to the east of the Isle of Wight should start toward the end of this year. At present, the only place where large ships can pass between the docks in Southampton and Cowes is opposite the Fawley oil terminal. This requires very close coordination of ship movements, and any delaying factor can disrupt the operation of the port. Once complete, ships will be able to pass over much of the channel between Dock Head and Calshot, allowing more flexibility and safety. But despite the best efforts of ABP, supported, they say, by the Environment  Agency, no beneficial uses of the millions of tonnes of dredged material are under development. It seems to be just too difficult to create projects for habitat restoration or flood defence that utilise the available material. Obstacles include suitability (particle size); cost; time/cost for obtaining consents; pedantic interpretation of environmental law. SPS continue to find the lack of progress in this area extremely disappointing, but are satisfied that ABP have genuinely tried to find solutions. Any change in the situation lies firmly with the environmental arms of government.

West Solent

Many years ago, ABP unsuccessfully sought to extend its harbour limits down the West Solent, and SPS was an objector. Now the situation is reversed. SPS is concerned about the lack of control over shipping operations, such as the transfer of wastes and cargo between ships at anchor in the West Solent; but ABP no longer has any aspiration to take over the management of the area. Nor does ABP believe that the creation of the Navitus windfarm south of Poole Bay will have any significant effect on shipping patterns through the West Solent. SPS therefore continues to remain concerned about the potential pollution risk from shipping operations in the area.

Future Legislation.

Both SPS and ABP expressed concern about the development of Marine Planning for the Solent area. Both believe that the Marine Management Organisation has yet to grasp the sheer complexity of the Solent, and the extent to which successful operation of port, shipping and leisure activity depends on the application of common sense and goodwill. Unlike the rest of the south coast, Solent activity impinges directly on the fortunes of UK PLC; the port and the local maritime industries face international competition. Laborious, slow and expensive consent procedures will drive investment elsewhere. Balancing that need against environmental protection for the benefit of the local community requires a sensitivity to local aspirations. While SPS and ABP may from time to time disagree on where that balance lies, the concern that the local situation needs to be properly understood is common ground.

Conference Cue

The Solent is NOT self sufficient in energy production, but several energy projects are planned for the area. So what do we have to do? How will it affect us and our environment?

Willie Walsh, CEO of IAG (British Airways and Iberia) was questioned about the likely effect of shale gas development on oil prices following his keynote speech to the Centenary Conference of the British Marine Federation held at the Royal Marines Museum at Eastney, Portsmouth.

In his opinion, the USA will not permit excessive export of gas, so the effect on world prices is likely to be limited to the withdrawal of USA from International markets. He added that this is likely to stabilise prices at around the current levels for a considerable period.

Mr Walsh considered that the development of shale resources in Europe would be limited because of the higher population density. While such constraints may not apply to the remoter reaches of China where shale gas is plentiful, shortage of water required to ‘frack’ the rocks may limit development.

If Mr Walsh’s view prevails, then energy prices would seem unlikely to rise to level at which wind farms, even onshore, are able to operate without subsidy.

Maybe we do need to spend the money on second generation renewables research, as suggested by Dieter Helm, the Oxford economist. In his view, the development of shale gas extraction technology has demolished the ‘peak oil’ hypothesis (i.e. we are about to run out of fossil fuels) on which the policy of subsidising current renewable energy sources is based.

If Dieter Helm’s opinion is correct, then wholesale investment in wind could leave the UK with an uncompetitive energy base compared with countries that have exploited shale gas.

This debate is raging within Government at present, and until it is resolved it would be a pity to despoil our landscape with wind farms on land, and it is already clear that the argument is having an effect on the offshore wind farms off the South coast of the UK. Several are under review. It is also interesting to note that Centrica have recently announced that they have withdrawn from being a potential nuclear generating company.

At best, gas can only be a bridging solution (though it has significantly less emissions than coal or oil). Friends of the Earth have argued that we simply do not have that much time available.

It therefore becomes imperative that we see more support for the commercial development of second generation renewable technologies that can be viable at lower oil prices.

In the Solent,

– Calshot power station is due for replacement,

– we face the possibility of “fracking” in the Solent area, and

– the development of windfarms in or near the Solent

– construction of a biomass near Southampton city centre

With this in mind, Solent Protection Society is planning a conference later his year to tease out the issues so that we can properly understand them insofar as they affect us and the Solent.”